Scientists at NASA announced on Thursday afternoon that Saturn’s Phoebe ring was detected with infrared telescope. The outermost ring of the celestial body has remained undisclosed for a long period of time precisely because it is very hard to notice by the human eye.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration informed science lovers on Thursday afternoon that the first glimpse of Saturn’s Phoebe ring was first noticed with the help of a highly advanced infrared telescope. The new discovery offers many insights on the activity of the dark ring, so scientists may now get new data about Saturn and its famous rings.
Based on the recent pictures, the Phoebe ring is much larger than it was initially believed. When the first snapshots of Phoebe were taken in 2009, experts estimated that the ring is only 4.8 million to 7.76 million miles large. The recent information, however, shows that the circumference of the circle is a lot bigger; it actually stretches between 3.75 million to 10.1 million miles.
Even though the ring is extremely large, its consistency makes it very hard to observe. NASA experts have explained that the ring is made out of incredibly small and fine particles. They have further added that the consistency of the ring is very similar to the one of the dust; therefore, telescopes usually mistake Saturn’s Phoebe ring with a dark shadow.
Saturn’s particularities have first been studied by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini. He was the first to signal the presence of a strangely dark moon in Saturn’s surroundings, whom he called Iapetus. Recent studies have shown that Iapetus is half white, half black, but astronomers were not able to understand the reason for this change of color.
A recent research suggested that Iapetus might have two colors because it is sometimes covered by one of Saturn’s rings. Scientists have, for that matter, analyzed the phenomenon with advanced telescopes. They have, thus found out that Iapetus gets dark during the moments when it crosses the Phoebe ring.
According to experts at NASA, the small particles composing the Phoebe ring have to be further studied in order to understand their formation and their evolution. Further studies will most likely be carried out with advanced space craft as Saturn’s Phoebe ring is hardly detectable.